I received a phone call the other day from a friend of one of my clients. She informed me that this client, whom I had known for years and have always taken care of her cats, had just been admitted to the hospital. My client (we will call her Sally) was an elderly lady living alone in a small apartment with her 5 cats. Sally had fallen and injured her hip. This meant a stay in the hospital, plus additional time in a rehab facility. The friend that found Sally injured was calling to see if I could board her 5 cats for an undetermined amount of time. Sally, not having a lot of extra money, was very worried about her precious cats. Needless to say, I kept them for free until she returned home. But, what if Sally had not been able to go home? What if she were forced to move into an assisted living facility, for example?
People who love and share their lives with cats often agonize over their care, but how many of us think about what will happen to them after we are gone? Even if old age is not a concern, what if you are in an accident? What if you have an unexpected illness that takes you away? Who will take care of your cat(s)? If we are lucky, we have a family member or friend who will care for our cats, but your beloved cat could end up in a shelter and possibly euthanized.
To keep your cat safe, you must plan for its care after you are gone. Cats are considered personal property, even though we treat them like our children, and will be passed to whoever gets items that arenŐt specifically left to someone. There are several choices to look into to provide for your cat.
You can specify who inherits your cat as well as include money for its care. I have been informed over the years that I am in several people's wills to care for their cats. I am happy to do it, but your will can't force someone to care for your cat, so make sure you have an agreement with this person ahead of time. It may also be a good idea to have a backup person in case the first choice is unavailable if and when the time comes. Also make sure that you detail exactly how you want your cat cared for.
If you don't have someone willing to care for your cat, try to locate a cat rescue group. Each rescue group operates differently. Make sure you agree with their policies. They may keep your cat if they have the space, or find it a new loving home. Talk to the organization's manager to determine how they work. Find out how they provide veterinary care and how they decide who adopts your cat. Discuss how they determine when it is time to euthanize.
SANCTUARIES OR LIFETIME CARE PROGRAMS
I have read about 2 lifetime care program websites. www.petguardian.com and www.2ndchance4pets.org list programs that provide cats with homes for life at their facilities. There may be fees, so remember, you can provide money in your will for such instances.
A lady named Rachel Hirschfeld created The Hirschfeld Pet Trust and The Pet Protection Agreement. She says it is important to ensure that your cat gets the same level of care for its entire life, even if you are unable to provide care due to injury, illness or death. You want a trust written so that your cat can stay with you as long as you are alive, even if you have help taking care of it. Your cat must also be provided for when you are gone. The pet trusts differ from your will by you specifying a trustee to oversee money and ensure that the designated caregiver follows your instructions. Make sure that you have enough money in the trust for your cat's needs, including end-of-life expenses. If your cat dies before all the funds are used, be sure to specify how the remaining funds should be distributed. Currently, pet trusts are legal in 38 states. Since state laws vary, you will need an attorney to set one of these up. You need to be sure it is meaningful, providing real protection for your cat.
Research your options now! The last thing you want to happen is to be lying in a hospital worrying about your precious cat at home alone. Make sure you cat is cared for - even if you aren't there!
Kim Hurley, Owner/Vet Tech
Cat's Meow Veterinary Hospital